Drop-off for tax payments extended to 7 p.m. tonight

Published on Thursday, 30 January 2014 23:19 - Written by By Adam Russell arussell@tylerpaper.com

Property tax balances are due today.

Smith County Tax Assessor/Collector Gary Barber said he wanted to emphasize that payment procrastinators have access to the quickest, easiest, cheapest way to pay statements — online by electronic check.

The tax office accepts cash, check, money order, credit card, debit card and electronic check payment. The tax office accepts partial payments on current and delinquent taxes.

Barber said he would extend the hours for drop-off payments until 7 p.m. this evening. He said he would accept drop-offs in the Cotton Belt Building parking lot.

Taxpayers who typically wait until the last minute should pay online to avoid missing the deadline and facing penalties, he said. Barber said mailed statements must be postmarked today to avoid penalties. He said postmarks take later to post since the U.S. Postal Service closed its processing center near Tyler.

Putting the tax bill in the mailbox does not guarantee it will be postmarked by the deadline, he said.

“Pay online because you get a receipt and know it’s taken care of,” he said. “We have people miss the deadline every year and are hit with the 7 percent penalty.”

But Barber reiterated that electronic checks give taxpayers the easiest way to pay free of charge and without driving across town or standing in lines. Customers can print receipts so they are sure the balance is paid, he said. Barber said more and more residents are using electronic checks to pay tax bills and he hopes the trend continues.

Credit card payments include a convenience fee of 2.5 percent of the balance. The convenience fee would cost $125 on a $5,000 tax bill. The convenience fee for using debit cards is $3.95.

Taxpayers can access their tax information at smith-county.com.

Walk-in customers will have three additional teller windows this year and access to “self-serve” payment kiosks, with touch-screens and multiple payment options. Customers can access tax information and pay with them. Staff will be on hand to assist taxpayers, he said.

Residents 65 and older, or disabled residents, qualify for quarterly payments. No penalties or interest are assessed if payments are received on time for homesteads.

Residents must file for this exemption and make the first payment before offices close today.

Penalties begin at 7 percent on Feb. 1 and increase 2 percentage points per month until it reaches 18 percent by July 1 in addition to a 15 percent collection fee. Penalties continue to escalate in 1 percent increments after that. Barber said tax payments were about $5 million ahead of this time last year, and 58 percent of the $270 million tax levy had been paid.

The main tax office is in the Cotton Belt Building, 1517 W. Front St. in Tyler. Office hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but Barber will extend drop-off hours until 7 p.m. tonight.

Taxpayers also can make payments at the office in Lindale, 2616 S. Main St. from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today.